Cubs, Brewers taking high road on 'rivalry' talk

September 4th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- Cole Hamels doesn't think Cubs-Brewers is a proper rivalry because Chicago fans packed Miller Park on Monday for his first taste of the neighboring teams' head-to-head matchups.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell's view? Whatever, man.

"I really look at, like, we're spending way too much time trying to classify rivalries," Counsell said Tuesday, after Hamels' comments in the wake of Milwaukee's 4-3 win in an instant classic that made the social media and talk radio rounds. "Like, enjoy the baseball games, man. I mean, home, road, I'm happy I'm in the building. Let's be in the building and enjoy those games.

"If you're not enjoying the game [Monday] -- sorry, Cubs fans, I know it didn't turn out the way you wanted -- that's a great baseball game. I mean, the moment with [Anthony] Rizzo, I could be a fan for a minute, too. That's a great moment. I remember being in New York when Tino Martinez hit a home run off Byung-Hyun Kim [during the 2001 World Series]. I'm standing at second base, and for a second you think, 'That's an incredible moment. I'm happy to be in the building.' hadn't given up a home run to a left-handed hitter in his big league career. Give Rizzo credit, man, he did a great thing. The building went crazy. It's a huge moment, it's a fun moment. It's why we're all here right now -- we love this sport.

"Rivalry? Whatever, man. Put me in the building and let me enjoy the game, I'm good."

Here's what Hamels said that prompted the back and forth Tuesday:

"When you have the majority of Cubs fans in the stands, I don't know if that's a rivalry yet," he said. "They're not going to like me for the comment, but you can look at the ticket sales. Cubs fans travel well and they represented us well. I think it's a matter of us going out and playing hard."

Hamels was correct that Brewers fans wouldn't like the comment -- and also correct that Cubs fans seemed to clearly outnumber Brewers fans, as they usually do when these teams meet.

But he was wrong about the ticket sales. The Brewers entered Tuesday ranked 10th of 30 Major League teams in average, at 34,807. If you removed the Cubs games, they would still rank 10th.

So, it's not a matter of rabid Cubs fans gobbling up empty seats. Anecdotal evidence suggests many Brewers fans sell tickets to home games against the Cubs to Cubs fans, many of whom live in southern Wisconsin or northern Illinois, and can make the short drive to see their team play on the road in a domed stadium that guarantees a game. They can even save a few bucks on cold beer.

The Brewers tried to correct the imbalance over the winter by hosting a presale for Cubs games at Miller Park for customers in Wisconsin zip codes. The evidence so far suggests it didn't work.

But as Counsell suggested, does it really matter?

He found some agreement on that in the visitors' clubhouse.

"I'm on the same page with him," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. "Rivalries are normally created by fan bases, and I know the proximity is there. The best I can describe it is, I think it's legitimately the Cardinals and Cubs, they've created that [rivalry]. I've been involved in the past in different organizations with the Dodgers and Angels and it's a different feeling. You can go back to your high school days, you know what that feels like. It was a great game, both teams are playing well.

"It's something that could build into something over time. You just can't create a rivalry by writing that it is. It has to be felt, it has to be proven over time. I agree with Craig. It was a really good baseball game."

Rivalry or not.